News 30 Jul 13

Macedonia Spies Probe ‘Has Become a Witch-Hunt’

The process of identifying former Communist informers in Macedonia has turned into a tool for targeting government critics, a human rights watchdog has alleged.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

Macedonian Lustration Commission

The process of lustration, intended to root out former secret police collaborators, is inflicting new injustices instead of addressing old ones, according to the latest quarterly report by the Macedonian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights.

“Lustration continued in a way that only confirms that the government is using this process for dealing with its political opponents and all who are critical toward its policies,” said the committee’s report for April-June 2013, which was published this week.

Following the practice of many former Communist countries, Macedonia adopted a lustration law in 2008 aimed at rectifying injustices from the Communist era, when people were tried and jailed based on information from police informants.

The law envisages the identification of people who collaborated with the Communist secret services, banning them from public office and other government benefits.

But the committee said that the process “has turned in to an open witch-hunt and the expulsion from work of professors and intellectuals, just like in the dark days of communism and the one-party system”.

The committee’s report cited the case of former police minister Ljubmir Frckoski, who was lustrated in May.

Macedonia’s Lustration Commission targeted Frckoski for allegedly ordering surveillance for ideological and political reasons during the 1990s, when he was a minister in the government of the now opposition Social Democrats.

The prominent ex-minister, now a law professor, is a critic of the current government of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.

His case was the first in which the Lustration Commission, a state office tasked with identifying former informants, probed a senior police official.

“With this, the commission only confirmed the tendency for pursuing and labelling all government critics, without taking into account the basic function of the law, according to all international standards,” the committee said.

The committee also said that the lustration of dead people, like that of late academic Slavko Janevski, one of Macedonia’s best-known writers, was absurd.

His classification as a secret police informer in early July sparked an outcry from authors and academics.

Soon after, the Lustration Commission declared that two other academics, writer Bozin Pavlovski and sculptor Tome Serafimovski, had been informers. This happened after they openly criticised the lustration of their dead colleague Janevski.

“The intent to punish these two was obvious, for their public criticism of the lustration of Janevski,” the committee said.

Last year, the ruling majority in parliament led by Gruevski’s VMRO DPMNE party passed a new lustration law without the consent of the opposition.

Critics say that the new law contains practically the same provisions that were contained in a previous law that was scrapped by the constitutional court, allowing lustration of wide range of professions and not limiting its timespan to the communist era that ended in the early 1990s.

The Helsinki Committee is currently disputing the new law before the constitutional court.

The government however denies claims that it is using the law to smear its critics.

In an interview for BIRN, the head of the Lustration Commission, Tome Adziev, also denied aiding the government.

 

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